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To Hire a Divorce Attorney or Not - THAT is the question! (TEXAS)

Posted by attorney Christopher Harding

Many married couples decide to divorce. Once that decision is made, each must decide if they wish to be represented. Representation means lawyers and lawyers mean money. That money normally will come out of the money of the marriage. A couple of things to consider:

How much money there is in cash, assets, and other places that you may be entitled to?

Is your soon-to-be ex-spouse agreeable and easy to work with?

These drive your decision. If you actually know how much is there, you have a good starting point for negotiation. Too little and don't worry about lawyers - if you end up owing them, you are better off walking away. Many spouses will not know how much is there, simply because one spouse may hide it or they do not know it should be included (stock options, retirement accounts).

If both of you can agree to the financial side, can you agree to a division of that money? Here is where things start to fall apart. Many people become accustomed to a certain live-style and that level of living is carried by the income of the marriage, which will certainly change for one or both parties. In addition, some people have a very unrealistic view of life after the marriage. Sit down and make a budget, seeing how much you need to maintain the life-style you want. If you need more than 50% of the money, it is likely your spouse is not going to agree and you need to change your expectations or get a lawyer. If fault plays a role (adultery, fraud, abuse), one spouse feels entitled to more than 50%, and even if they may get it after a trial, the other spouse might not agree before that trial. Hire a lawyer.

One thing to keep in mind is that states deal with fault and division of property differently. Texas uses a just and equitable standard. Most courts award each party 50%, with very little deviation. Fault (and/or a great lawyer) might shift that to 65/35 in extreme situations. Plan on hitting somewhere between.

With all of that in mind, you start this process with a certain amount of money. Even with income continuing to come in, lawyers might cause your cash flow to become negative. You could find yourself on the day of divorce with less than what you would have walked away with.

Finally, other considerations play a part. Kids issues (possession/access) or simple bad blood can cause you to need a lawyer.

Take a long, hard look at your situation before you make this decision. Good luck - and remember that at some point, you did love that person who will soon be your ex.

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